For if the disinherited get a new focus like patriotism, for example – freedom within a sense of homeland or nationhood, then the goal of not being killed is swallowed up by a larger, more transcendent goal. Above all, the disinherited must have no interest in the social order; they must be made to feel that they are foreigners, that it is a great boon to be able to remain alive, and not to be exterminated. It was the psychology of the Nazis; it was born out of their theory of the state and the place granted to the Hebrew people in its ideology. Such is also the attitude of the Ku Klux Klan towards the Negroes. — howard thurmann, Jesus and the poor
The poignant and timeless words of Howard Thurman speak transparently about the current dilemma of the underprivileged in America who sit in the tension, terror, and tragedy of a nation that constantly fails “the people.”
The ‘people’, those on the fringes, exist in the voids, are thrown back into the valleys and left to survive by their own methods, without communal or governmental intervention. Those who suffer from illnesses, disabilities, who suffer from financial lack and material insufficiency, but who cling to an internal disposition of survival while everyone around them is breaking down. Those who feel there is no outrage just for their durability and progression.
This is the dilemma currently escalating in a US Senate unable and unwilling to embrace the protection of voters’ rights amid democratic decline as morale continues to decline. Such is the state of consciousness in America tainted with moral bankruptcy and communal decadence.
The foundation of this nation, which was claimed to be built on common concepts of justice and freedom for all, has long needed to be deconstructed and reconstituted. Institutional apathy, capitalist abuses and white hegemonic fear exuded in displacement tactics have brought us to the present day. An hour in which the American project hangs in the balance as people are treated as disposable commodities and seen as replaceable – unsalvageable – livestock on the farm of American disenfranchisement and plains of fertile white fragility.
It is this same fragility that would lead the Senate to pass a bill granting the Congressional Gold Medal to Emmett Till and Mamie Till but who do not have the courage to consider the acts of January 6, 2021 as domestic terrorism.
It’s the same frailty that sees no problem changing filibuster rules under a Republican president to secure Supreme Court justices, while infuriating claims of “process” when people are centered.
“It’s the same frailty that sees no problem changing filibuster rules under a Republican president to secure Supreme Court justices, while infuriating claims of ‘process’ when the people are centered.”
It’s the same frailty that claimed grief and grief over the deaths of Congressmen Elijah Cummings and John R. Lewis, but doesn’t have the nerve to make sure people, black people, are considered as equals.
It is the same fragility to which the words of Mitch McConnell of the Senate floor stating, “If my colleague tries to break up the Senate to silence these millions of Americans, we will make their voices heard in this chamber in a way that is more embarrassing to the majority and this White House than what anyone who has seen in living memory”.
McConnell’s declaration is a clear commitment to block the rights of some to retain power. This is not an American anomaly, rather it is the honest state of American consciousness.
There was a vivid and evident angst and anger toward the Trump administration, coupled with undeniable agony toward our democratic affairs and the national republic. Manifested through a summer, in 2020, where black bodies hung and lay in the streets like strange fruit only for thoughts and prayers to be spoken. Meanwhile, a pandemic has ravaged the homes, communities and lives of the disenfranchised whose existence is no different from that of Henrietta Lacks. Black and brown bodies were seen as devoid of patriotism and deserving only of death.
Therefore, we come to this point of apathy as the minority struggles to find hope and help in the midst of a collectively failed government. Jeremiah Wright Jr. in his 2003 sermon “Confusing God and Government”, pointed out this: “And the government of the United States of America, when it came to treating its citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservation. When it came to treating its citizens of Japanese descent fairly, it failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating its citizens of African descent fairly, America failed.
“Denial, deception, and delusion allow a state of evil existence to become and remain normative.”
Denial, deception and illusion allow a state of dis-existence to become and remain normative. These practices must be replaced by a communal and reconstituted democracy built by and for the people, where people are not rejected. where the purpose of not be killed is swallowed up by a larger and more transcendent purpose.
However, if this nation is to change for the good of the people, a larger and more transcendent purpose must be imagined, sketched, and actualized. This goal must not be centered on American exceptionalism, imperialism, militarism, supremacy or xenophobia, but be directly confronted with the veracity of its failures.
We must be honest about the failures of this nation, its commitment to abandoning the vulnerable and its unwillingness to reconstitute itself for the good of all, forcing people to erect a more divine purpose. We need a larger goal than amplifying American wins and losses, fighting white hegemonic fear amid massive demographic shifts, and weathering the surface of intergenerational terror.
If America’s conscience is to contain a morality of righteous indignation and communal ingenuity, the attitude of Congress and the nation toward and commitment to the disenfranchised must change – or the country we have known will no longer be. Without it, the disinherited remain outside the construction and priorities of this nation and outside the perspective of life.
Jamar A. Boyd II serves as senior executive for organizational impact with the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.